Missouri attorney accused of malpractice during probate actions granted summary judgment

By Marian Johns | Mar 20, 2019

KANSAS CITY – A Missouri attorney facing allegations of legal malpractice by a former client who previously was in a coma was granted a motion for summary judgment but lost his motion for sanctions.

"Because there is not sufficient evidence favoring (plaintiff John Michael) Beshears on the attorney-client relationship element for a jury to return a verdict for Beshears on his claim, (Andrew Patrick) Wood is entitled to judgment as a matter of law in his favor on Beshears’ complaint," U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Southern Division Judge Roseann Ketchmark ruled.

According to the March 5 court filing, Beshears, of Arkansas, sued his former attorney, Wood, over malpractice claims relating to a probate action and the appointment of a guardian and conservator for Beshears' estate, which took place while Beshears was in a coma following injuries in a June 2006 car accident that killed his wife. 

While Beshears was in the coma, the order states Woods filed a petition to have a couple, Charles and Ruth Reynolds, act as co-guardians and co-conservators of Beshears' estate. The same day, the McDonald County Probate Division ordered a hearing on Wood's petition relating to the Reynolds and appointed another attorney to represent Beshears, the order states.

Beshears claims in his court action that Wood's representation of both his estate and the Reynolds probate action is malpractice and states in the court filling "this dual representation was known to be a conflict of interest by [Wood] and [Wood] never obtained permission from either of his clients to represent both."

Beshears also alleged Wood was negligent in his "performance regarding the probate action" because he did not investigate the Reynolds' qualifications before appointing them as guardians of the estate and that Wood failed to keep the Reynolds from "misappropriating" money from Beshears' estate. 

Among Wood's arguments against Beshears' claims is that the plaintiff failed to "produce evidence demonstrating" an attorney client relationship between him and Beshears and that Beshears did not make a "submissible claim for legal malpractice."

The court sided with Wood, stating "Beshears has not submitted evidence that support specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial on the attorney-client relationship."  

The court however denied Wood's motion for sanctions, concluding that "given that the court grants summary judgment in Wood's favor, and Wood does not seek payment of expenses or argue for sanctions, under Rule 11, Wood's motion for sanctions is denied as moot."

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